Q. I can’t take aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. They all make my stomach hurt!
I am having trouble with joint pain, though, and wonder what you can suggest. Tylenol works, but I hate to take too much.
A. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin as well as prescription pain relievers such as Celebrex, diclofenac and meloxicam can all irritate the digestive tract. They may also raise blood pressure or trigger irregular heart rhythms.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not bother the stomach, but with regular use it too can raise blood pressure and harm the liver, kidneys, ears or lungs.
The Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis that we are sending you provides information on medications such as salsalate that are less likely to irritate the stomach. It also includes many foods that can be helpful against inflammation.
Nondrug approaches such as turmeric, fish oil, tart cherries, pineapple or gin-soaked raisins may also offer relief without side effects. One reader offers this testimonial for a pill containing turmeric:
“The best pain remedy and inflammation fighter I have ever used is a curcurmin based remedy and it really works!
“The only person it didn’t work on is my brother so I encouraged him to take a digestive enzyme with it and he refused. I have had to take digestives for many years and figured he might need one too.
“For the doubters out there I will admit that it didn’t take my cancer pain away completely…but it did take the edge off so that it was tolerable. Not even morphine or Oxycodone did that for me. They didn’t work on me at all!”
Another reader, J.E., offered this experience with turmeric:
“Fifteen years ago I had a benign spinal cord tumor that was 90% removed through surgery. Subsequent radiation killed the remaining tumor. Over the years, as my spine has settled and curved due to the laminectomy, I have had increasing nerve pain that bands around my upper body. I took one turmeric last week after reading the Graedon’s newspaper column, and I was SHOCKED at the results. It was unbelievable how it completely took the sensitivity to touch that had plagued me away. Thank you so much for all your helpful and life changing information.”
Finally, here is this story from Julia R.:
“I am having GREAT results with Tumeric for arthritis, stiff joints, etc. For several years I’ve been taking either Ibuprophen or Daypro. After all of the recent discussion regarding the drug problems related to arthritis, I visited an herbalist and have for over a month been taking TUMERIC in a capsule form. She buys a pharmaceutical grade of tumeric and has it put in a capsule.
“My medical history…. at age 64…. both knees replaced, 2 hand surgeries for carpal tunnel, two thumb joint replacements and bursitis in my right shoulder. (Am I falling apart?) NO…. not with lots of exercise and now Tumeric. I have less pain & discomfort now with the Tumeric than I had with prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.
“I love your radio show… and just wanted you to be aware of this if you didn’t already know about it. Would be very interested in your opinion. Thanks so much for a great program and good, fair information.”
Sincerely, Julia R.
To learn more about the various benefits (and some risks) associated with turmeric (and curry), we recommend The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. You will discover that people have used turmeric for back pain, gout, bursitis, arthritis, psoriasis and warts. There are some risks, though, and you will find that some people are susceptible to a rash or digestive upset. There is also a concern that it might increase the risk of bleeding when taken with the anticoagulant Coumadin (warfarin). So, even one of our favorite spices is not for everyone. You will also learn about our favorite anti-inflammatory foods such as blueberries, pomegranate, pineapple, grapes, cherries, ginger and garlic. They’re all in Quick & Handy Home Remedies.